A Travellerspoint blog

May 2017

And away we go!

Loading up the R-pod, and the Honda Pilot Tow Vehicle, the epic fail of the easy up screen tent, last day never seems long enough

rain 14 °C

The last day never, ever seems long enough. As this blog entry is written it is going on 9:00pm and we still have a bit of stuff to finish before we go to bed. We will depart at 8:00am June 1. We have a long day ahead of us, with 750 kilometers of travel planned.

But we are getting there.

Loading for departure:

We've been loading the R-pod over the past few days. Jenny built shelves out of chain and shelving for our little closet:

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We filled them with clothing:

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They work really well, holding all of our pants, t-shirts, sweaters. Our socks/underwear and in tubs and stored over the slide out:

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We've got our shoes and boots stored in the bottom of the corner cabinet under the propane cooktop. Pantries are filled with food basics. We use lots of plastic jars to hold dry goods:

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Every space now has something in it. We love our morning coffee and we have a single tub dedicated to this purpose. Everything we need to make our morning coffee in one place. We will boil water on the propane stove at our Walmart stops for the next two days and can easily get this done without having to tear everything apart to find the essentials of what gets our day started.

Tow Vehicle Loading:

It took three attempts to get it right, but in the end it looks pretty good; The empty space:

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This space is filled with our back up clothes (for cold weather) tucked away in a bin out of the way. We can get to it if we need to, but otherwise don't have to move it at all.

A full size spare tire for the tow vehicle.

An essential tool bin...everything we may need for basic and not so basic repairs. There is a list of the contents in the trailer if we need to find something we can just check the list. There are three rolls of duct tape in there just in case nothing else works, but hammers, screw drivers, ratchets and so on. We can fix what needs to be fixed. We have two emergency tubes of silicone just in case there is a leak.

A camp set-up bin: This bin has things we will use at every camp stop, like our clothesline and pins, table cloth, axe, hatchet, tarp, bungee cords and tent pegs and guy ropes. This bin is right there ready to be pulled out every time we set up a camp.

We have three milk crates with all the stuff we need to level and secure our trailer when we camp. Our battery operated drill will set the scissor jacks in a flash, and all of our leveling material is in another crate.

Camp chairs, a three step ladder, our solar panel and our camp outdoor carpet complete the load in the tow vehicle.

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Screen Tent Epic Fail:

We purchased a screen tent, for $275 from Canadian Tire. It was a Woods 10' x 12' easy up screen house. We will be travelling in bug season in Canada and a screen tent was considered to be a necessity.

Ours was not particularly easy up, nor did it last through its first erection. A seam split, making the thing useless. We returned it for a full refund, and will look a lot harder for the next version. We might be buying one before we get to our first camping experience in Algonquin Park, where the bugs can be fearsome, especially at this time of year.

If you are American, and plan to visit Canada, you simply must go to a Canadian Tire Store. They are everywhere in this country, and sell virtually everything you could need or want. Most have vehicle service centers. Check them out...reliable, reasonably priced, and usually pretty good.

Summary:

We are ready to go, the first day is always the one you have been waiting for. We started planning this trip 9 months ago, bought the tow vehicle, bought the R-pod and it seemed like this day would never get here.

So, here we go. Look for Sully (our tow vehicle) and the TaJ-ma-Haul coming down the highway towards you. Flash your lights, R-podders. Let's go see the world.

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Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 16:38 Archived in Canada Tagged packing Comments (0)

Upgrades and Warranty Work

Electric Jack, Goodyear Endurance Tires, anti-sway, Warranty work on the water system, preparations

rain 12 °C

After our test weekend at the Ovens Nature Park it was back to Jerry's R/V in New Minas, Nova Scotia to get the water system looked at under warranty. We also had a common problem...the trim along our slide out had popped off when we opened it because the cushion was in the wrong position. A lesson learned...we will be watching that in the future.

I had already made an appointment for May 17 for Jerry's to add anti-sway.

Warranty Work:

The tech hooked the trailer up to the water system and we quickly discovered that there was indeed a leak under the bathroom. He blanched at the thought of having to rip the thing apart to find it. In order to find out where the leak was he used a camera on a flexible hose and ran it under the bathroom. Luckily, the leak was not in the water lines, rather the connection to the trap under the little bathroom sink was loose and that was allowing the water to run down the inside bathroom wall and come out onto the floor close to the bed in the front of the 179. It was a fairly quick repair and we both breathed a sigh of relief.

The other water problem was the weak flow from the kitchen sink tap. It turns out the water line had a substantial amount of wood chips and sawdust from construction and once the filter on the tap was cleared that problem was solved.

It was also an easy fix to re-attach the trim along the slideout.

Upgrades:

We added anti-sway to the hitch. We are going to be on the road for 6 months and the trailer did have a slight sway when we towed over to the Ovens, so it was an easy decision to make in the interests of safety and comfort. The cost, which would have been $175 installed, was covered by Jerry's. Nice people

We also added an electric Jack. After hand cranking the trailer it seemed like it might be a good idea. Total cost, installed was $265.

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Tires:

We are heading out for a monster trip, and part of that trip will be on less than perfect roads in Wood Buffalo National Park, in Canada's Northwest Territories, and a month on the roads of the Yukon and Alaska. Although the factory supplied load range 'C' tires seem just fine, in the interests of safety and security on the road, we upgraded to Goodyear Endurance load range 'D' tires. They have much stronger sidewalls and should last the entire trip.

We were also somewhat worried about the life of the factory installed tires. We expect to tow the R-pod for about 21,000 kilometers on our journey and thought we might have to replace them somewhere on the road, or risk a blowout as they wore. We have seen pictures of the damage a blowout could do to these trailers.

We will keep the factory tires stored at home and use them in future years when we travel much closer to home. Total cost, installed, and filled with nitrogen, was $450.

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Preparations:

The small closet in TaJ did not work for us, as we carry almost no clothes that require hanging. So Jenny devised a shelf system made out of chain and metal shelving cut to fit. It looks pretty darn good and makes much better use of the space for us.

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She also used the image from an old T-shirt of mine to make a pillow for our bed. Kinda cool:

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As this blog entry is written we are just 5 days away from departure and are working on getting ready to get on the road. All winter long we have listed the things we need to take with us and estimated weights so we would have an idea of how to load everything.

The distribution of the weight is very important and it must be balanced side to side as well as front to back. We estimate we will be carrying almost 1000 pounds of stuff, so about 600 pounds will go in the tow vehicle and 400 in the trailer. When fully loaded our rig will weigh about 8,000 pounds, with 4,800 pounds in the tow vehicle and 3,200 in the R-pod.

We weighed the trailer and tow vehicle at the scale at the local garbage dump to get our base weight of 7,000 pounds. Over the next few days we will get everything loaded, and probably re-loaded until we are satisfied, or until we run out of time.

The next blog entry, on May 31, will cover the rest of our preparations to depart. Following that, we will update the blog at least twice a week.

Our first two days on the road will be to tow from our home in Nova Scotia to Ottawa, Ontario, a distance of about 1500 kilometers. We will make two overnight stops in Walmart parking lots, one in Edmunston, New Brunswick, and the second in Neapean, Ontario. There is a site online that lists which Walmarts welcome overnight stays. Our first camping adventure will be in Algonquin Park, in Ontario, where we are booked for 4 nights, beginning June 3

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 04:29 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

The Ovens Nature Park May 12, 13, 2017

Testing out the systems, first major tow, a camping park past its prime, a cold, cold weekend, major fail on the water system on the R-pod, but Yay the heater works.

sunny 10 °C

The Ovens Nature Park, owned by the Chapin family, yes, the family that Harry Chapin of "Cat's in the Cradle" fame. Located on the south shore of Nova Scotia. It has been in operation for 35 years.

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We had booked our weekend stay there some months ago, knowing we would need a real life test for our new R-Pod. You can read manuals all you want, but until you actually hook the thing to your tow vehicle and take it out somewhere and see how everything works, it is just reading.

We picked opening day for the Ovens because it gave us two weeks afterwards to fix any problems before we head out on the highway.

When we brought TaJ home from the dealer we tired out the mattress for an afternoon nap. Well it was OK, but we needed something more, given that we will be sleeping in this trailer for half a year. We ordered a 2" foam topper from a foam shop in Dartmouth and our route to the campground included picking this up on the way.

We loaded most of what we will take on the road for our long trip as we wanted a realistic tow. We had weighed the tow vehicle and the trailer empty. In most communities the best place to find a weigh scale is at the local dump, which is where we got our weigh-ins done. Completely empty, 7,300 pound combined weight...loaded for the road, 8,000 pounds. Our tow vehicle is holding 4,800 pounds and the trailer 3,200 pounds. Well balanced from side-to-side. It is all important for the tow. Know your weight and how it is distributed.

On the leg to the Ovens we traveled on main highways, at 100 kph(60 mph). We did not have anti-sway on for this trip, but it was ordered for installation the following week. I wanted to try towing without before I pulled the trigger on the purchase. By the time we had made it to Dartmouth (180 kilometers) I was ready to complete the anti-sway purchase.

We arrived at the Ovens early afternoon. This place has been open for more than 30 years. Since it was opening weekend we did not expect a crowd. There were only 3 other trailers in a 150 site campground.

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There is little ambiance to the R/V camping area, essentially just a big open field with a line of trees and we imagine in the summer when it is full, it must be a tight fit. The individual spaces are quite small. They charge a premium price, $50 a night, for a non-premium space. The ocean view is decent compensation, we guess. In addition, it is the beginning of tick season in Nova Scotia. We encountered 5 of the little beasts over the weekend, but without getting bitten. It is important that you check yourselves for ticks often, and to not drop your outdoor clothing on the bed, where the tick may get off on the bedding and not bite you until you are sleeping.

We set up camp and decided to immediately get into testing out the systems on the R-pod. First up was the connection to city water. Easy enough. Then the fun began. The instructions say to open the faucets in the bathroom and kitchen sink to let the system fill. Immediately, a problem. The bathroom sink sputtered and spit and did not get to a clear flow. In the kitchen, just a dribble came out. Then water started coming out from under the wall behind the toilet...argh! We know they had tested the system at the dealer because we were there when it was done.

Nothing to do out here but disconnect the water and go without until we could get the dealer to look at this. So we went without water in the trailer, which turned out to be a good thing, once we disconnected from the campground water and tried filling up our kettle to make some coffee. The water coming from the tap was brown and murky. It turns out the campground had turned on their water system, but had not flushed the lines. We ran the tap for 15 minutes before the water ran clear. You would think the campground might have done that in advance. We were glad that we had not run that murky water through out trailer.

While it was a bright sunny day, it was bitterly cold. The high for the day was 10 degrees Celcius, the forecast low was just 2 degrees. There was also a pretty stiff breeze blowing in off the water. We took a walk around the campground to get a little exercise. The tenting campsite are much better than the open field R/V area and there is a lovely hiking trail along the cliffs over a number of ocean caves.

This one is called Cannon Cave...as the waves slam in it sounds like a cannon going off.

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There were people panning for gold on the beach. In 1861 there was a gold rush on this beach, with more than 600 claims being filed. There is still gold to be panned out of the beach sand, although the takings are slim...just a few flakes in each pan.

After supper, as the air got even colder, we tried out the furnace. Wow, now that thing works, and very well. It kept us toasty warm through the cold evening and night. We had planned on a campfire but the cold was simply too much to sit out.

On Saturday, after breakfast we headed in to Lunenburg to get some internet access as there is none at the campground. Lunenburg is one cool place to visit. A seafaring town, established in 1750, it has a rich history and a lovely setting. The town rises steeply from the shore and virtually everything has a nautical theme. We spent a few hours exploring the town and having coffee.

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I cooked shrimp and grits for lunch back at the campsite. We prefer to cook outdoors on a Coleman stove whenever possible, but it is nice to have a two burner cooktop and the microwave/convection combo in the R-pod. The fridge works very well and we operated it on battery, 110 volt and propane over the course of the weekend. Jenny baked muffins using the convection oven.

Lunch:

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After lunch we decided to have a nap. While we were napping we heard some people talking outside the trailer. Since the campground was virtually empty this seemed weird. We peeked out the window to find an Asian couple taking pictures. The husband sat at our picnic table while his wife photographed him, then they moved to the other side and he took pictures of her alongside the slide-out. They were laughing and enjoying themselves. We imagine they do not have these types of trailers in their homeland and were thinking the pictures would be good to show relatives and friends back home. They hung around for about 10 minutes, providing us with entertainment as well.

As the day got colder towards dusk we decided to try out the television and the Jensen entertainment center. For some reason Jenny could only get the TV to work in black and white, but we watched the movie Fargo on DVD that evening. It turns out that Jenny had messed up a setting during the set-up of the TV. The Television does not come with a printed manual and since we did not have internet we were unable to check this until we got back home.

Our bed is very comfy with the 2" foam addition to the mattress. Neither of us had any problems sleeping.

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We broke camp and headed for home early on Sunday, which started out not only cold, but foggy as well. I spent most of the weekend with a toque on my head when outdoors. We hauled our way home over secondary roads, at 80 kph.

Now that we have weekend number one out of the way, we have an appointment at the dealer to get the anti-sway installed, and to deal with the water issue.

We would rate the Ovens a 5 out of 5 for location, but a 2.5 out of 5 for facilities. Quite simply, the owners need to spend some money updating the shower room. We have camped extensively, and this shower room would get a 1 out of 5 rating. The campground was very pricey at $50 a night as well.

The next blog entry will cover our repair visit to our dealer, and preparations for departure on the long trip which starts in just 12 more days.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 04:29 Archived in Canada Tagged caves cold ticks Comments (0)

The adventures of Sully and the TaJ-ma-Haul begins

How we got to this point, where we are going.

May 12, 2017

A bit about us: Jenny and I are retired and live in rural Nova Scotia when we are not on the road. We are experienced travelers and understand that everything does not always run smooth when you travel with a trailer. This is our fifth blog. We do not bang away at 110 kph on expressways as we travel: most of our travel is on secondary roads, and we are not afraid of taking our chances up gravel roads as well.
While we enjoy full service R/V parks, just as often we will boondock, or camp with limited services.

We rarely visit large cities on our explorations...when we worked, we lived in big cities and they hold no particular excitement for us anymore. Places with dark skies where we can see the stars and hike in the wilds are more our cup of tea

We have spent the last 5 years traveling with a 1976 boler 13 foot trailer. We sold the boler in the spring of 2016, thinking we were done with trailer travel. By mid summer of 2016 we had decided that we needed to keep moving, with so much to see and do across North America, and driving with motel stays was just not doing it for us. On a relatively short trip south in June we spent over $3,500 on motels and rental suites.

We longed for the open road with less restrictions on our travel budget. So, we bought ourselves a whole new travel rig.

  • Our tow vehicle is a 2016 Honda Pilot, with a 5000 pound towing capacity. Essentially it is a basic model all wheel drive Pilot, with a factory tow package. We have named the Pilot Sully, after the airline pilot who landed his plane the Hudson River.
  • Our trailer is a 2017 Forest River R-pod model 179, a 20 foot home away from home. We ordered our for delivery in the spring of 2017. The trailer is named the TaJ-ma-Haul, or TaJ. The TaJ is short for our names, Tony and Jenny,

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All winter long we planned the route. We leave June 1 for 6 months on the road. We expect to tow the R-pod for 21,000 kilometers, and put another 19,000 kilometers on the Pilot touring around places we visit. Our route takes us across Canada from our home in Nova Scotia.

Part one: On the way west we will visit 3 Canadian National Parks we haven't been to before: Puskawa on Lake Superior, Grasslands in southern Saskatchewan and Wood Buffalo, in the Northwest Territories.

Our ultimate destination on this leg is the Yukon and Alaska. If all goes according to plan, we should arrive in Dawson Creek, British Columbia on July 19 and start our trip up the Alaska Highway on July 22. We will be joined on this leg of the journey by Debra, an old buddy from Duncan, BC who tows a Trillium trailer.

Our loop trip through the Yukon and into Alaska will take 23 days, and about 900 kilometers of this portion will be on gravel roads, so that will be a test for our travel rig. We will cross into the US at the northernmost border crossing on the Top of the World Highway. Most of the campgrounds in both the Yukon and Alaska do not have services so we will be boondocking much of the time. We know there are full service R/V parks along the way, but we prefer the more rugged camping experiences when we have that opportunity.

Coming out of that portion of the trip, we will take the Cassiar Highway, from Watson Lake, down through Jade City, where an intrepid family mines Jade for the Chinese market. We make a side trip to Stewart,BC/Hyder, AK, the most remote border crossing between Canada/US.

We will end this portion of the trip in Prince Rupert, BC, where we will store the trailer and take a 3 day excursion to Haida Gwaii. We'll be staying in a guest house in Masset and will explore the culture and scenery of a wild island 300 kilometers off the western shore of British Columbia. Our travel friends from Texas, George and Karmen Reid, with their Airstream will meet us in Prince Rupert for this portion of the trip.

Part two: Beginning in late August we will head south through British Columbia and on into the United States. We plan to pick up several National Parks on the way: Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Sequoia, Death Valley, Joshua Tree as well as the south side of the Grand Canyon. By the end of September we should be in Arizona.

Part three: Through October we will begin heading east picking up two more National Parks: Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico and Big Bend in Texas. We will be meeting up with George and Karmen in Mission TX and spending a bit of time at South Padre Island before heading on to New Orleans.

Part four: The long trip home, through the Florida panhandle and up the east coast of the US. As we get farther north, camping opportunities will become few and far between. We expect once we get past North Carolina in late November it will just be a 3-4 day run home to Nova Scotia.

We expect to visit 8 Canadian Provinces, and 2 Territories, as well as 22 US states. We will visit 13 National Parks in Canada and the US that we have not been to, plus several more will get a second visit. We will post ratings of campgrounds as we go as well as to assess the performance of our tow vehicle and the R-pod.

Summary: We took delivery of our Honda Pilot on December 1, 2016 and have spent the winter getting used to it. It is the largest vehicle either of us have ever driven on a regular basis.

We took delivery of our R-pod 179 on April 25 and spent three weeks looking over its features. However, until you actually put it to the test in a realistic camping situation, it is all just speculation on how things work.

Entry #2 of the blog will take us through the test weekend and our discoveries as well as the final preparations for our upcoming journey. If you bookmark the blog location on your computer you can check in on a regular basis for our reports from the road.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 04:31 Archived in Canada Tagged parks alaska national yukon r-pods Comments (1)

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